The phone call came garbled a little after 10:30 p.m.

“Our mom is not being allowed to board her plane” – and abruptly, the call was terminated.

A few moments later an urgent SMS was received about another passenger. “Dr. Laron is missing, never checked in, flight cannot be held.”

The overwrought travel consultant was befuddled. How could two women, on two different airlines, Delta and Continental, suddenly “disappear” at Ben-Gurion Airport? The initial terse call was repeated five minutes later when Judy’s children called again.

Angry and concerned, they explained that their mother had shown up a good two hours prior to her flight. Yes, they admitted, security was particularly tight that evening, but when their mother reached the Delta counter, she was told she would not be permitted to board her flight to Atlanta with an immediate connection to Pittsburgh. And then again the line went dead.

Dr. Laron’s disappearance was just as puzzling. She had been summarily requested to fly to the US for an urgent meeting and had just purchased a full-fare economy class ticket on Continental Airlines.

Planning on being there for only 36 hours she had beseeched her travel agent to do all in her power to get her an upgrade to business class. Hence her absence was raising warning lights on both sides of the Atlantic.

Judy’s kids finally returned home and were able to make a coherent phone call. Their mother, an intelligent successful women in her mid-50s, had purchased her ticket almost four months ago. Flying by herself she had meticulously followed all the points her travel consultant had brought to her attention. Make sure her passports were valid; verify the names on the passports matched her ticket.

She had packed assiduously, each suitcase weighing near the maximum permitted.

The day of the flight something was rattling inside her brain about the flights but she couldn’t place her finger on what the travel agent had said about departure times.

Hence the Delta ground representative’s assertion that she could not board left her speechless. It was 11 p.m. and her tiredness was beginning to take its toll.

Einat Laron was having just as jarring a time at the Continental counter. She had no problem with luggage; she had none. She didn’t even bother printing her e-ticket; flying as often as she did and being an elite member of their frequent flier club, she was less concerned about check-in procedures as she was permitted to check in at the business counter. She too, though, was mystified when told she could not board the flight. She hadn’t even gone home that night – working in her office until she hailed a cab to take her to the airport, arriving a good 90 minutes before her scheduled flight.

The travel consultant dealing with Judy’s kids was losing patience. Unable to discern what was causing the problem, she firmly requested to speak directly with the passenger.

Obtaining Judy’s cellphone did little to clear up the mystery. It went straight to voice mail. Two more attempts elicited the same non-reply. Calling back her children, it was explained that unless she could locate and speak to Judy nothing more could be done.

Her children, too, were now perplexed as they too could no longer reach her. Finally the travel consultant offered the obvious explanation – somehow Judy was on a plane.

It would take several hours to find out how she made it.

Einat’s absence too could not be easily explained. In fact, as the Continental plane took off, her name was not listed as a no-show but simply that she didn’t take the flight. In fact the Continental supervisor was emphatic that although she didn’t miss the flight, neither was she on the plane. Two hours later her assistant confirmed that she had not returned home and that no text message or email was sent with a cogent explanation.

The next morning finally brought some clarity. Both Judy and Einat had forgotten the cardinal rule of air travel.

While most airlines no longer require reconfirmation of a flight, it is imperative that all passengers should confirm their flights are departing on time. And in the challenging environment in which Israel finds herself, the issue of daylight savings time is no less important. While most of Europe and all of the US are blessed with a far longer daylight savings time, Israel for many years follows the concept of going off summer time the weekend before Yom Kippur.

Hence when Judy purchased her ticket months before, the Delta computer hadn’t updated the departure time.

Also when Einat, who flies often to the US, purchased her Continental ticket, she was confident of the hour when it departed. An effort on both women’s part to simply verify when the plane was departing would have solved all of their problems.

Both Delta and Continental ground staff handled the ladies’ problems with patience and efficiency. Einat had quickly gone over to Delta and purchased a one-way ticket to JFK; she phoned the US number of Continental to inform them she would not be taking their evening flight but would most definitely return as booked. She sat in her seat as the doors of the aircraft closed, let out a sigh and went back to work. Why she forgot to text her family, her company or her travel consultant is the only mystery that remains.

Judy too was quite fortunate. While too late to catch her original flight to Atlanta, Delta was kind enough to rebook her to JFK without any penalty and also reserved a connecting flight to Pittsburgh. A relieved Judy ran to the gate for her flight, also letting out a sigh of relief and also leaving a mystery for her children.

Bottom line, dear reader: Time waits for no one, so make sure you always have it right.

The writer is the CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem. For questions and comments, e-mail him at mark.feldman@ziontours.co.il.

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